First up: We’re reviewing a great new gardening book ‘Diary of a Modern Country Gardener’ today – do have a look at the bottom of this post.
Even if some of us are still trudging through snow, the lengthening days lure us into the garden in March. There is much to be done – staking the perennials, getting the children sowing seeds, planting dahlia tubers, so off we go……..
Getting the toms going
In my humble opinion, there simply isn’t a better vegetable than tomatoes (though actually it’s a berry!) to grow yourself rather than buy.And the main reason for that is the sharp tangy aroma of a freshly-picked tom, which simply cannot be replicated, I don’t think, with even the most organic of shop-bought ones.
I’ve tried lots of different varieties over the years, including beefsteak ones, yellow ones, blight-resistant ones, but the one I always come back to, and one of the easiest to buy seed for is ‘Gardener’s Delight’, (though ‘Sungold’ comes quite a close second…’). Whether grown inside or outside, these plants produce ‘largish’ cherry tomatoes for me, of a delicious flavour and in such quantities that one can afford to eat them like sweeties – just wandering around the garden doing other things…………lots of them never make it to the kitchen round here!
This is how to sow the seed:
- Tomato seed needs to be sown indoors, using fresh compost in pots on a warm sunny windowsill, or in a heated propagator at 15-20 degrees C.
- Sow the seed thinly then cover with a fine layer of compost or vermiculite.
- Water using a can with a fine rose.
- Keep the compost just moist and wait for the seedlings to appear.
Staking your claims
March is well-named – as the spring progresses, the perennials in your garden will start to ‘March’ upwards, surging through the ground as eager as the rest of us to see an end to the wet, wind and cold.
It may seem bonkers when they seem still so low and feeble to be worrying about supporting them, but if you put in some twiggy supports now, you will be helping the summer display massively. In about a month, you’ll hardly be able to see the twigs for all the new green growth coming through them. The new fleshy stems will be propped and sheltered by the branches, ready to support the flowers in their turn.
Hazel and birch stems are usually considered best because they have plenty of twigs, but I use almost any handy branches that have come off in the winter gales (…..and there have been plenty of those, haven’t there).
Push 1m. lengths into the ground around your herbaceous plant, anchoring them firmly and then weaving their twigs over the top of the plant. The stems will grow up strongly among this woody framework, but guided and supported by it, until no one will ever know they needed supporting at all!
Seed-sowing with nippers
It is so very important that we inspire youngsters to take an interest in growing things and the natural world in general. Now more relevant than ever, I would say, and Greta Thunberg would surely agree with me. Every child should have the chance to feel the simple pleasure of watching mini-bugs, sniffing a flower-scent, or watching a plant grow from a seed that they have planted.
March and April are perfect months for children to sow some easy Hardy Annual flower seeds. Many have large seeds that they can easily handle – things like nasturtiums, marigolds (Calendula), annual Lavatera, sweet peas and sunflowers. Or what about growing something that they can eat – beans are fun, or peas, or even pumpkins if you have the space!
The other day I was in a garden centre, and saw that Suttons have brought out a bright new low-priced range of Fun-to-Grow seed packets for children which look just the thing. And other seed companies have similar ranges for little ‘uns, including a very jolly Mr Men collection from Thompson & Morgan.
Keep things simple – sow the seed directly into small pots of damp compost. Put the pots in a greenhouse, a cold frame or just a bright windowsill inside and keep the soil moist. Your little nipper won’t have to wait longer than a couple of weeks before experiencing the thrill of seeing tiny green seedlings appear.
Follow any instructions on the packet about hardiness, but in general the seedlings will be ready to be planted outside in a flower-bed or a pot, by mid- to late-May.
Our children and grandchildren are the gardeners of tomorrow – who knows what seeds you’ll be planting in their minds along with the nasturtiums……………..
Take the deadheads off early-flowering bulbs – they are not needed, unless you are propagating from seed, and will only draw nutrition away from the formation of strong bulbs below ground for next year’s display.
If you grow sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica), this is a good time to tidy it up. This lovely 3-season slow-growing shrub (foliage, flowers and fruit) appreciates having about a third of oldest upright stems cut out to a low joint or right back to the ground. Check the rest of the plant for old or weak shoots.
Your mower will soon be in full use once again, so make sure the blades are sharpened and all is in working order ready for the new season.
Check over any dahlia tubers that you put in winter storage, discard any that are soft, withered or rotten, and pot up the rest . Water the pots and keep them frost free while the dahlias produce new shoots.
Now, to our book review: If you enjoy gardening and the countryside, please do read our review here of Tamsin Westhorpe’s Diary of a Modern Country Gardener. (You can buy the book here)
NB: And if you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags just enter your email address below, go on……